Drysuit seals....

Bought my first drysuit today…pre-owned and completly re-gasketed.


How tight do the gaskets really need to be around the neck. I trimmed them all but didn’t want to go too far. The neck gasket is still tight enough I don’t think I could spend a day in it without it bothering me.

Also, is talcum powder ok for lubrication or is there something better?

This is a Stohlquist suit with the double row nylon zipper. How to lubricate and care for it?

In my diving days we used windex to make the seals slippery…but it washed off the second we hit the water.

Unscented talc and
Try to walk around in the suit for 15 minutes, but in some situation where it won’t be also way too hot or anything, do it a few times. Like put on something top protect the booties if you have 'em abd leave all the zippers open. Then see how tight the neck feels.

Celia got it right …
unscented talc. Where do I get that you might ask? Billiards supplies - look for Silver Cup Premium Talc.

Why unscented? read on …





stretch it if you can
I use a form that I learned about from the NRS gasket repair instructions:


I use minicell foam and cut a circle about 10" in diameter. I keep the form in when not in use. The fit around my neck is great if I’ve used the form and feels like my head will explode if I don’t.

I suppose anything the right size will work to keep the gasket stretched.

I use 303 UV protectant which keeps them slippery enough for me

I keep a 3 liter plastic soda bottle in
the untrimmed neck gasket of my Stohlquist drytop. The circumference of the soda bottle is not much larger than my neck, and much smaller than my fat head, so (as has proved to be the case so far) there is no risk of damaging the gasket by over-stretching. The gasket has gotten to be comfortable. Stretching alone takes patience, but one can end up with a wider, softer contact area on the neck than can be obtained through trimming alone.

The Stohlquist wrist gaskets did not even have guide rings for trimming, and Stohlquist’s instructions, while not spelled out very well, seemed to indicate that the wrist gaskets should not be trimmed. I have also been able to use stretching alone to achieve a comfortable result.

I have never trimmed a gasket, having previously owned and used two Kokatat drytops. The Kokatat gaskets were thinner than the Stohlquist gasket, and responded much faster to stretching.

Interesting about wrist gaskets…
"“The Stohlquist wrist gaskets did not even have guide rings for trimming, and Stohlquist’s instructions, while not spelled out very well, seemed to indicate that the wrist gaskets should not be trimmed.”"

I went to REI to get some clues and the Stohlquist drysuit instructions there said “wrist gaskets will require much more aggressive trimming, as much as 1” or more". Yikes!

I’ve trimmed the heck out of mine. Big neck, big wrists. I done diving drysuits years ago and learned its not the tightness or wideness of the seal that does the job…its the quality of the contact patch on your skin. But with regard to paddling drysuits, I’m reading conflicting information from each of the manufactures.

Kokatat says “like really tight”…which surprises me. Others say…“comfortable with tiny leakage is better than un-comfortable and a no leakage”. Others say ‘stretching’ is best. Then others say “stretching is bad…the seals were designed to be trimmed”.

So, I went for comfort, and used a sharp paper cutter to cleanly/evenly slice off my gaskets to fit. So far, so good.

This is really confusing. Even the manufacturers don’t agree. The latex gaskets all appear to be the same. Lubrication…some say talc, some say 303 Protectant, even read one that said sunscreen! DWR application…some say no heat, some say iron on, one even said use a hair dryer.

I thought it was interesting
also that the different manufacturers can have such varying recommendations. It seems that there aren’t any proven methods of dealing with some the drysuit issues. I guess it’s like most things, do what seems right to you or what your manufacturer recommends to maintain the warranty.

As far as the gaskets go, I would trim them down to where they feel a little bit tight still and then go for a paddle and see how it feels. My experience is that if it feels a little bit tight at first, it does seem to stretch some and is comfortable enough.

Stretching is a waste of time
You can stretch seals for weeks and have it make no difference, but if you trim them, they’re comfortable immediately.

As for your question about tightness, seals don’t need to be tight. You should be able easily pinch the seal and lift it off your skin, or stick a finger in behind it.

One thing I have noticed is that a seal that’s just slightly on the tight side when you first put the garment on may be completely comfortable after you paddle in it for a while. I emphasize paddling, as if you’re just walking/sitting around, you’re going to be thinking about the seal the entire time. If you’re paddling and you find that the seal tightness still attracts your attention, it’s probably too tight.

You can stretch gaskets for weeks and
have it make no difference IF you don’t know what you are talking about.

Trim if you want, but stop telling people that stretching is ineffective or damaging.

Be careful about trimming
because the seals will loosen over time. It is safer to do some stretching first. Find some cylindrical objects that are large enough to stretch the seals a good bit, then leave them in place when not using the suit. If the seals remain too tight, then trim but don’t overdo it. Also be careful to not create even the slightest notch in the seal, you risk tearing.


Tiny Flaws
I have never trimmed a gasket until the ends start to deteriorate.

Stretching works and I have a thick old neck.

When you cut the gasket if you spaul the edge it will tear right there when you are taking it off or putting it on.

Stretching should not hurt the thing.

Sliding in and out, Unscented talcum powder or if that causes problems as it often does for some folks try KY jelly. Sounds off the cuff but it works fine. All other lubricants are suspect but if you can use it with a micro thin latex condom it won’t hurt the inner tube latex on a dry suit.

Re. Cutting, if you must you must but I would try to stretch the neck over a 1 gallon US paint can and the wrists over pop bottles when ever the thing is not in use before coming on to it with scissors.

I have used a dry suit almost exclusively for 12 years, I own 2 and have owned another 2 for 4.

Hope this helps.


Stretching works
I have only trimmed a neck seal when I didn’t know any better. In two years it ripped. I now only stretch my neck seal. I have a Kokatat ex-large suit and a 16 1/2" neck. I stretch it constantly in the beginning until it’s comfortable.

If you have a really large neck then you may have to trim it. The NE Kokatat rep told us to stretch it first and use trimming as the last resort.

When I say stretch it, I mean put it on gallon milk jug.

There’s a thread on this subject here:


also it might void the warranty
On NRS suits it specifically voids the warranty if the seals are trimmed.

It IS a waste of time…

– Last Updated: Jan-14-08 10:42 AM EST –

...if you need to change the size to any significant degree. Trust me, I've tried stretching seals for weeks over objects that seemed ridiculously large and it still wasn't enough. Five minutes with a razor blade solved the problem. I don't know about you, but I can't see any point in being uncomfortable for an extended period of time while hoping that the seals on my suit will stretch. Trimming WORKS, and it works IMMEDIATELY. I agree with using caution not to over-trim and when in doubt, leave a little extra, but I still see no point in stretching seals.

One more point, while some dry suit manufacturers (well, only Kokatat) recommend stretching, the manufacturers of the seals recommend trimming. Who do you think knows more about the subject? In diving circles, trimming is the norm, so it makes no sense for kayakers to be "trimming-phobic".

With all due respect, Jay…
…a single seal failure without any other data is hardly conclusive proof that trimming was the cause or is in any way an inferior technique to trimming. Seals fail for lots of reasons.

It ain’t rocket science…
…and it’s not difficult. It’s harder to make a “notch” in a seal than it is to trim one correctly. I don’t understand why people get so worked up over the idea of trimming a seal. There’s nothing to it. I’ve done it with a Swiss Army knife and a plastic bottle found on a beach. It’s no big deal, just take your time and exercise some common sense.

Actually, the opposite is true
A smooth cut causes no damage. Stretching latex to change its size requires the material to tear on a microscopic level, as you must stretch it beyond its yield point. If you don’t believe me, contact a company that makes latex seals and ask them.

What is the warranty on seals?
Most manufacturers cover everything except the seals, as they are prone to failure from age, wear, sun/chemical deterioration and mishandling.

I agree, it makes no sense to be phobic
about trimming. I have always been a hot hand with a scalpel. Someday, when I’m in a hurry, I will try trimming.

There must be limits on how far a gasket can be stretched. When I got my Stohlquist drytop, it had a much thicker, tighter gasket than the Kokatats I had dealt with previously, and I wondered if it COULD be stretched. But I had plenty of time, and as it turned out, a 3 liter plastic soda bottle was the answer. Two liter bottles had worked for the Kokatats.

One thing I would advise first time stretchers: don’t just stick your hands or knee in there and start stretching hard. That is the way to get uneven stretching and to damage some areas of the gasket.

I recall, with one of the Kokatats, stretching the wrist gaskets for a very long time with 20 oz. plastic soda bottles. When I first tried the gaskets, they were just a little slack, and would have leaked. But after a day, they came back down and were very comfortable. (Maybe I should have started with 16 oz bottles.)

What do the companies say about
stretching a gasket with something only a little larger than your neck diameter?

What do they say about the real stress on gaskets, the unavoidable repeated donning and removing over one’s head?

I guess certain people are just lucky enough to have heads the same diameter as their necks.